Department of Justice

Justice Department to End Contracts with Private Prison Companies

The move will only affect 13 prisons, or about 12 percent of the federal prison population.

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Paul Hennessy/Polaris/Newscom

The Justice Department will end or significantly reduce its contracts with private prison companies, citing more safety problems and lesser quality of services, The Washington Post reported Thursday.

In a memo, Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates said private prisons "served an important role during a difficult time period," but safety incidents and other problems led her to conclude that they "simply do not provide the same level of correctional services, programs, and resources; they do not save substantially on costs; and as noted in a recent report by the Department's Office of Inspector General, they do not maintain the same level of safety and security."

The private prison industry has been under intense scrutiny from media outlets and progressive activists, not to mention Democratic presidential candidates, but the decision will ultimately only affect 13 privately run federal prisons, which mostly house non-citizens. About 88 percent of federal prisoners are housed in facilities run by the government, as are vast majority of those incarcerated at the state and local level.

Yates cited a Justice Department Inspector General report released last week that found higher per capita rates of safety incidents, use of force, lockdowns, inmate discipline, and contraband than at facilities run by the Bureau of Prisons.

The report noted several high-profile safety incidents at privately run prisons, such as an inmate riot over alleged inadequate services that essentially destroyed a $60 million privately run federal prison in Texas.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Management & Training Corporation, one of three private prison companies the Justice Department contracts with, said "the facts don't support the allegations."

"Contract prisons have long provided valuable, cost efficient, and effective services to the BOP," the spokesperson said. "If the DOJ's decision to end the use of contract prisons were based solely on declining inmate populations, there may be some justification, but to base this decision on cost, safety and security, and programming is wrong."

In response letters to the inspector general report from CCA and GEO Group, the two other companies the Justice Department contracts with, the companies cited the large population of foreign nationals and gang members in its facilities as a driving factor in the higher number of incidents. A CCA official wrote that the"criminal alien population housed in contract prisons" were "significantly more likely to be involved in violence and misconduct."

The Bureau of Prisons began contracting with private prison companies in 1997 to help curb overcrowding. However, as of December 2015, the BOP was still operating at 20 percent over capacity, despite the federal prison population dropping in 2014 for the first time in three decades.

As the Reason Foundation (which publishes Reason magazine) has pointed out before, the federal and state systems will still have to absorb the populations of current privately operated prisons somehow if their use is discontinued. An Inspector General report from earlier this year found chronic medical staff shortages at BOP facilities—due to trouble competing with private employers—contributed to lack of access to medical care for inmates.

The Reason Foundation's Annual Privatization Report 2015 found private prisons housed 141,921, or 9 percent, of the total 1.57 million federal and state inmates in 2013.

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  1. the federal and state systems will still have to absorb the populations of current privately operated prisons somehow

    Perhaps they’ll thoughtfully consider what kinds of things should or should not be against the law.

    BWHAHAHAHAHAHAAA! Held it as long as I could!

    1. Based on the article, it sounds like enforcing our borders would have an effect, as well.

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  2. I couldn’t possibly imagine that this was a response to any pressure to do this from the public prison guards’ union. That would be unpossible.

    1. Obama’s Legacy. I assume that’s a bigger motive here.

      1. Likely. It’s still a move in the right direction, though “or significantly reduce” has me a bit skeptical.

        1. Depends on what you think the direction is. My guess is that prisons will get even more crowded and conditions will deteriorate further.

    2. Whenever you see a Baptist crowing about banning booze on the Sabbath, there is always a bootlegger paying for the opportunity to provide illegal booze.

      1. cool story bro

  3. Can you imagine how badly things have to be done for them to be done worse than the government would?

    Privatizing prisons is nothing like privatizing, say, air traffic control. There’s nothing there but perverse incentives.
    Bad enough that the government does it. Privatizing a bad thing is not going to make it better, it’s going to make it worse.
    Mark my words, this will wind up trotted out as one of the standard talking points against privatization in general.

    1. Private schools are just like private prisons, what with the captive populations, sadistic wardens, and cafeteria riots.

      1. I would be 100% ok with people being able to pay for a private prison. The purpose of prison is to protect the public from those politicians and the courts have deemed dangerous. As long as that function is met, I don’t really care how luxurious their accommodations are.

        I’d even go one step further and advocate for a voucher system, just to keep everything “fair”.

        1. I like the idea of criminals being assigned monetary damages they can work to pay off, and prisons being privately run workhouses who compete for contracts. Perhaps they pay the victim a lump sum to buy out their interest or perhaps the victims get a stipend, but in either case they have an incentive to work the prisoner honestly and humanely. Wouldn’t work for all offenders, obvs, but it combines proper remuneration (paid to the victim, not the state) with rehabilitation (you work hard, you get out earlier).

          Probably a ton of flaws, but the bar is already stunningly low.

          1. That really only works for crimes with victim’s though. Since we allow people to be incarcerated for victimless crimes it would actually provide a *stronger* incentive for the state to expand the scope of these sorts of crimes.

            Regulatory crimes also.

            1. Of course, that’s an argument against the concept of victimless crimes.

              1. Also if someone is a good worker and their time is coming up and they are to be released. The prison may lose money if this happens so they manage to conveniently find contraband they claim is his/hers thus preventing their release. These places place profit above all. If they employ them as free people they have to pay them $15.00 an hour. If they have prison labor they pay them 5 cents a day. The latter is more cost effective.

                The only color that has privilege in America is green.

    2. Your average Sanders supporter will not hesitate to explain to you that these prison companies and their cozy relationship with government employees to cut deals that result in them getting oodles of taxpayer dollars in exchange for imprisoning people…well that just proves how much this whole “capitalism” thing has failed. If private prisons are the end result of free markets, they will lecture, do we really want to continue down that path?

      1. Well, it has the word “private” in front of it!!! Private = capitalism, ergo capitalism failed!!! QED!!!! QED damn it!!!

      2. A Bern victim tried to explain to me that private prisons are the direct and sole cause of, among other things, the War on Drugs.

        I don’t really talk to him anymore.

      3. Your average Sanders supporter will not hesitate to explain to you that these prison companies and their cozy relationship with government employees to cut deals that result in them getting oodles of taxpayer dollars in exchange for imprisoning people

        Exactly like government prisons. Say that and enjoy the sputtering rage.

    3. I have always struggled with the idea of “private prisons”. I would imagine no matter how you figure it, a private prison has a vested interest to maximize the prison population. The more prisoners, the marginal costs for housing and feeding are at best flat, and more likely decrease with increasing population. And obviously they would get paid more for more prisoners.

      And besides, until and unless the Justice system as a whole is privatized, these aren’t private prisons anyway. Sweetheart contracts to cronies is not the free-market.

      1. It turns the entire idea of ‘privatization’ on its head. The idea of privatization is that private companies have more incentive to provide service to their customers. When the customer is only ever going to be the government, you are just talking about perverted incentives.

        But even then, the private prisoners only the tip of the iceberg. As mentioned above, prison guard unions create the same perverse incentives by gaming the political system to increase their power and job security.

        1. Sad, because you could easily make the prisoners the customers. But that would require that we get over the concept of prison as punishment and instead understand prison as an unfortunate necessity.

    4. There’s no issue with the prison being private. This is not to say that there cannot be issues at private prisons, but if there is an issue with the conditions, that is an issue regardless of it being private or public. If there is an issue with keeping prisoners longer than they should be, that’s on the state. Same for too many people being sent there in the first place.

      1. I think this entire story is a defense of private prisons. They underperformed, now they’re fired! How do “we” fire the DOJ and turn over ops to a competing entity? That’s not to say there’s not a million perverse incentives, but wherever government provides service perverse incentives will follow

    5. Agreed. Prisons are an area where privatization incentives are misaligned; it is perhaps one of the worst places to privatize.

      It is ultimately a good thing that private prisons are going away. They didn’t cause our prisons to fill up, but they are exacerbating the problem and creating perverse incentives both for the prisons themselves and the political system.

  4. OT:

    Gawker is dead.

    This calls for a party, no?

    1. Always a shame when a stalwart of journalistic objectivity and national interest comes to an end. And then there’s Gawker.

    2. *Kermit the frog sipping tea*

    3. That is where I did my internet trolling, where will I go now?

      *Single tear falls down cheek*

      1. You do what everyone else here does, you make a sockpuppet account and troll fellow Reasoners.

        1. I thought everyone was Tulpa?

  5. Thank g-d. Nothing says quality and safety like a federally managed operation.

  6. After doing a quick read of the DOJ study, I would seriously question the results anyway. Higher incidences of confiscating contraband. Could be the contract prisons be more effective at finding contraband? Higher rates of guilty findings in discipline cases and more complaints by inmates? Maybe that is appropriate. Maybe the BOP prisons are too easy.

    In addition, the report spent a great deal of time discussing the BOP inspectors and overseers of the contract prisons. Do the BOP prisons get the same oversight? Isn’t it plausible that this is the fox guarding one hen house, and then telling the home owner that the dog does a worse job of protecting the chickens they he does?

    Finally, though the report mentions the costs to the taxpayers of each, it then speeds right through. The BOP spends significantly more per capita then do the contract prisons. And the BOP has repeatedly been chastised for lack of transparency in their budget. But, nothing to see here.

    1. BOP is just as bad, but so-called “private” prisons should not have existed. Perverse incentives, sweetheart government deals, substandard conditions, etc.

      1. I don’t necessarily disagree. But, this report just smacks of political nonsense. So they will use this to blame “private prisons” and then of course extend to private whatever. When in reality the “private prisons” aren’t any worse, and they really aren’t private.

    2. The BOP spends significantly more per capita then do the contract prisons.

      How does that jive with “they do not save substantially on costs”?

      1. Substantially is a weasel word.

      2. My hunch, without reading it – they argue the private kkkorporations are more selective in the prisoners they take, and then adjust for this assertion to even out the cost curve.

        Even though private prisoners are pretty damn proven at accomplishing the one thing they were designed to do – cut costs so government can keep locking people up endlessly for the pettiest bullshit.

        This study is political. I don’t need to read it to know that. But in this instance, it achieves something that I would view as positive regardless. Only issue being it kind of provides a very convenient scapegoat for progressives who like to pretend the problem is just private prisons and they are completely ignorant (sometimes willfully so) of the issues created through public prisons.

        1. Agree that the private prisons achieved their goal. Now, maybe the BOP has esoteric goals that weren’t met, but the private prisons alleviated an issue not of their making for cheap. What’s the saying? Cheap/fast/good – pick only 2.

          It is a scapegoat, but the obvious counter is the fact that they housed

          1. …less than 10% of the total population

      3. And their major complaint is that private prisons are taking away all the good medical personnel with better salaries and benefits.

  7. Do public prisons get an hour of alt-text a day?

    1. Not on Ciaramella’s watch

  8. Just some more pulled right out of the report (number monthly avg per 10,000 inmates for 4 years):
    -10 X as many cell phones confiscated by contract prisons (are they more effective)?
    -2x more drugs confiscated by BOP
    -A bit more tobacco confiscated by contracted (who cares?)
    -2X weapons confiscated by contract
    -BOP had 3x as many deaths
    -Suicides were the same
    -Total grievances 14000 BOP sample, 8700 contract prisons.
    -More sexual misconduct allegations of staff against inmates for BOP, and slightly more of guilty findings of inmate vs. inmate in BOP

    Compare these numbers to the fact that for 2013 and 2014, the BOP spent $3000 annually per capita than contract prisons did, who is really worse?

    1. Are you saying the justification is based entirely on private prisons confiscating more illegal stuff?

    2. You are doing yeoman’s work. Most people just look at the headline. Progs are going to accept the narrative because it makes them warm and fuzzy. I just assume it’s a government issued report that feeds that narrative and it’s all bullshit, but am far too lazy to go digging through it to find the obvious distortions of reality.

    3. Wow, thanks. Completely undermines the justification

  9. Justice Department to End Contracts with Private Prison Companies

    Note the specific exclusions. I would suspect ‘non-profits’ will soon be getting into the prison game, perfect Donkey alignment for one of their ACORN kind of outfits integrated into symbiosis with one of their public-sector unions.

    The Clinton Global Initiative would be a perfect public/private/non-profit sector match-maker for such efforts I’m sure.

    1. Well, they’re going to have to do something with all those yucky AGW deniers. What better way to prepare?

      God, can you imagine an ACORN-run prison? *shudders* Give me Oz any day.

  10. It couldn’t be that public run facilities tend to be better at insulating and covering up?

    1. Heh, compare the VA to privately run hospitals, oh wait, better not do that….

  11. I am in favor of privatization. Period. I would like to see how much better (or worse) the government does in running these prisons. My bet is, worse.

    Disclosure: I am a retired supervisor for Corrections Corporation of America.

    1. Were you the guy who supervised the gang rapes or the gladiator-style death matches?

    2. Is that like CCP in Robocop? God that movie was prophetic!

  12. It is right and proper that the administration of rape cages ought to be a gummint monopoly.

  13. In a memo, Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates said private prisons “served an important role during a difficult time period,” but safety incidents and other problems led her to conclude that they “simply do not provide the same level of correctional services, programs, and resources; they do not save substantially on costs; and as noted in a recent report by the Department’s Office of Inspector General, they do not maintain the same level of safety and security.”

    Shorter: We’re going to stop doing this thing we’re doing, but not because it was a bad idea or any kind of mistake on our part.

  14. What the hell, one more thing:
    The OIG had several recommendations and the BOP agreed with those recommendations. The OIG recommended that subject matter expert panels and other information be gathered by 10/31/2016. So the DOJ isn’t even taking the OIG’s recommendations or waiting to see what could be done to improve the apparent issues.

    Pure politics.

  15. It turns the entire idea of ‘privatization’ on its head. The idea of privatization is that private companies have more incentive to provide service to their customers. When the customer is only ever going to be the government, you are just talking about perverted incentives.

    I was just reading something the other day about how government programs are totally awesome, but cannot be judged by “ordinary” metrics. The author completely ignored the distinction between voluntary, mutually beneficial transactions and coercive one-size-fits-all government mandates.

    “How many people would willingly pay for that government service, given a choice?”

    “That’s a stupid question.”

  16. I have an issue with the privatization of anything that requires sharing in the government’s monopoly on force. It’s hard enough to keep up with the damn government, much less a private entity that works behind the scenes.

    1. It does seem like public-private partnerships always manifest the worst parts of both types of entities.

  17. From the Post story:

    In response to the inspector general’s report, the contractors running the prisons noted that their inmate populations consist largely of noncitizens,

  18. Libertarian magazine praises the decision to expand the government and eliminate privatization of government services….

    Remember kids, left-libertarian means a bigger government makes you MORE free…..

    1. Libertarian magazine praises the decision …

      Where, exactly?

  19. Private prisons are not capitalistic at the current model. Unless there is some market force that ensures the company is rewarded for creating value general benefits of markets can not be seen. Worse, we can see monopoly or tragedy of commons like scenario.

    I have the following solution:

    1. Do a third party review of prisons just the way we do it for schools or colleges.
    2. Depending upon the nature of the crime give prisoners option to pick up a prison of their choice from a given set of prisons every year or so.
    3. Reward prisons which ensure better life for the prisoners. Where the rate of lapse is much lower etc.

    All this is hard and near impossible but needs to be done.

  20. the companies cited the large population of foreign nationals and gang members

    Whoa, whoa, whoa! This can’t be true. I’m told we don’t need borders and that immigration is always and forever a good thing.

    1. This only says something about immigration if you tack on some other, unstated premise.

      1. The premise that if we don’t control who comes into the country, that criminals will…?

  21. My mothers neighbour is working part time and averaging $9000 a month. I’m a single mum and just got my first paycheck for $6546! I still can’t believe it. I tried it out cause I got really desperate and now I couldn’t be happier. Heres what I do,

    ———– http://www.Max43.com

  22. Aw, look at the joker in the promoted comments:

    Never saw this coming! Who could have known that government has certain legitimate, necessarily monopolistic functions like the police, the courts, the prisons and the military? Another libertarian moment crashes and burns.

    Yeah, getting your legs broken feels so much better when it’s done by the government. Legitimate and necessarily monopolistic!

  23. Why are you using their propaganda terms? There is nothing “private” about corporatist prisons. They have nothing to do with any semblance of a free market.

  24. There was an article in today’s Pittsburgh Tribune-Review dealing with product problems, helmets for the U.S. MIlitary, produced by prison labor. Seems like there is enough blame to go around, possibly no small amount thereof laying in the ample lap of the U.S. DOJ, which refused to prosecute, one wonders why.

  25. My mothers neighbour is working part time and averaging $9000 a month. I’m a single mum and just got my first paycheck for $6546! I still can’t believe it. I tried it out cause I got really desperate and now I couldn’t be happier. Heres what I do,

    ?????? http://www.Max43.com

  26. I’ve always thought of private prisons as slave labor.

  27. I inboxes a turret rim that my uniform got before deployment in 2005 (we took them to Iraq and didn’t use them because they were out of service before we deployed or were squired by my unit, stellar efficiency the military has) and there was a 3×5 card in it explaining the “Escape Proof” waranty of the prison made product. The welding and machine work were good. I still have the card somewhere.

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